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Are collections better than series?

We used to have a format called series, which allowed you to create a list of related documents, but this only met the most basic need for viewing related departments and policy content. So in September, we made it possible to group the documents into meaningful sections, under headings, each with their own summary text. We also renamed the format 'collections'.

To evaluate the impact of the changes, we recently took a look at the data. Since it was a few months before publishers were using the new features, we decided to do a comparison of the data on series from July (before the change) and on collections from November (2 months after).

Headline statistics

1. Roughly the same number of different series/collections were viewed in each month.

2. There was a 73% increase in visits to collections compared to series (this is after adjusting for the extra visits to GOV.UK overall in November).

3. More visits to GOV.UK Departments and policy involved viewing a collection, 7.1%, compared to 4.1% for series.

4. More users are coming into collections from referring links, 36%, compared to 24% for series.

What's being collected?

Also interesting was the most-viewed collections and series. It seems that collections are being used for a number of high profile documents, including the national curriculum and crime statistics, which partly explains the increase in traffic. Here are the most popular collections from November:

Collection Pageviews Entrances
National curriculum



Lasting power of attorney forms



Immunisation against infectious disease – the Green Book



Crime statistics



DBS Checking service guidance



Road accidents and safety statistics



Related GDS blogposts

How to make a collection

Goodbye series, hello collections

Improvements to document series: curate more useful lists

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  1. Comment by Stephen Edwards posted on

    Is there any user research on how users interact with collections?

  2. Comment by Alice Newton posted on

    We know that someone viewing a collection on average looks at 6 pages, although we don't yet track clicks on internal links, which limits our insight. We also know there's a low exit rate on collections (21%), which is what you'd hope for.

  3. Comment by Alex Schillemore posted on

    Just as an aside - when adding a document to a series you could do so from within the document itself, rather than going into the series. It would be great if you could do this with collections, too.

    • Replies to Alex Schillemore>

      Comment by Rachel Glossop posted on

      I have to agree with Alex, it's a very clunky system and would be much easier if you could add a document to a collection within said document, not having to navigate to a different section and do another full open/edit/add/save etc

  4. Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

    Are you able to share any thinking on how collections might develop in future? I recall reading that you might consider adding email alerts to collections (which I think would be very handy, and give much more granular updates than is currently possible by organisation and topic). I can't view PivotalTracker on my IT settings.

    It would help if you can also share some examples of what you consider 'good' collections (is that the same as the table above of high-use?), and perhaps some of the pitfalls of not-so-good collections.

    • Replies to Andrew Robertson>

      Comment by Alice Newton posted on

      Hi Andrew,

      In terms of future development, we do want to add email alerts to collections. We also intend to make the publisher user experience of creating a collection easier.

      Some good collections include:
      The National Curriculum
      HS2 Phase One environmental statement documents
      End user devices security and configuration guidance

      I chose those three because they all use headings (sometimes with summary text) to give users context for the documents and guide them towards the ones that they are looking for. A quick glance at the analytics shows that for each of those collections, the top 10 next viewed pages are all documents within the collection, implying that they are doing a good job of directing users to the content they want.

      I recommend taking advantage of the ability to create custom headings - some weaker collections just have the single default 'Documents' heading (although this can be appropriate). Another pitfall of collections is grouping documents when there is no real user need for finding this content together, or creating a collection for a very small number of documents. Lastly, failing to maintain a collection that claims to be the definitive place for documents on a certain subject is frustrating for users, so make sure you continue to curate collections.

  5. Comment by Suzanne Amos posted on

    Alice, thanks for the examples.

    All the examples seem to be collections of publications?

    Are there any examples of collections of detailed guides?

    Here's hoping,
    Suzanne Amos (Contracting at Defra)